How to Be Successful with Your Sporting Dog

The sporting dog group encompasses many beloved breeds, including some of the most popular. Whether you already own one of these wonderful dogs, or are considering a breed from this group, it's important to understand what these dogs were bred for so you know what to expect.

The sporting dog group was designed to work closely with humans to assist with hunting game. They help the hunter out in a few different ways by indicating the bird, flushing the bird, or retrieving the bird.

Sporting dogs can be divided into four groups: Pointers, Setters, Spaniels, and Retrievers. These groups share many of the same traits but since these dogs were bred for slightly different things, there are some characteristics that apply to each group.

Pointers and Setters are bred to find the game and freeze, indicating to the hunter where the bird is. The hunter then walks in and flushes the bird, all while the dog stays completely still. Many of these dogs exhibit very strong impulse control.

Spaniels run through the fields and flush the birds. Because they need to stay within shotgun range, spaniels will have more of a tendency to stay closer to the hunter.

Retrievers are bred to do what their name implies - retrieve. These dogs tend to stay at the hunter's side until the bird is down, at which time they are sent to retrieve the game. Another variation of this occurs with waterfowl hunting. Retrievers will lay quietly in the boat until they are sent into the water to get the downed bird. Because retrievers have to switch often between inactivity and energetic retrieves, these dogs tend to have good off-switches.

Typical Characteristics of Sporting Dogs

In general, sporting dog breeds share many characteristics. They are strong athletic dogs who are intelligent and social. These dogs like to use their noses and excel at activities which require searching. They tend to be very focused on the task at hand, whether that's trying to chase squirrels or zoom through the agility course.

In general, sporting dogs make excellent companions. They enjoy being around people, typically have good off switches, and are very smart. These dogs usually excel at performance events such as obedience, agility, nosework, dock diving, and more. However, some of their traits can be challenging to deal with.

Sporting dogs are high energy dogs which require lots of mental and physical stimulation. Regular exercise is a must for these dogs. Their sturdiness typically means they are strong dogs, so having an owner that can physically handle them is a must, as well as early training to teach loose-leash walking. They are intelligent, and if they are not provided with a job and plenty of enrichment, they will make up their own games, which usually includes destroying things.

Sporting Dogs Tend to Be Social...

Because these breeds were bred to work closely with people and sometimes other dogs, sporting dogs tend to be very social. These dogs need to be carefully socialized with exposure but not necessarily a lot of interaction. If you teach the pups that every person and dog is fun and exciting, you may end up dealing with a dog that tries to very enthusiastically greet every dog and person they see!

Before you get a sporting dog, be aware of what these dogs were bred for and which characteristics might come from that. Learn what challenges may face so you can plan early to prevent and minimize issues. With a bit of thoughtfulness and training, sporting dogs can be wonderful companions capable of doing just about anything with their owners.

If you want to learn more about sporting dogs and the breeds within this group, please join me for my webinar, Success With Sporting Dogs! We'll discuss common characteristics and how these can both benefit us as dog trainers and provide challenges. I'll go over how you can prevent and/or manage many of the issues we typically see from these dogs. Get ready to understand this group of dogs so much better, whether you already have one or are considering getting a sporting dog!

E210: Heather, Nicole, and Chrissi - "Living With ...
E209: Erin Lynes - "Pulling and Diving Dogs"

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